Archive for the ‘Music nobody listens to’ Category

I have been very quiet on new music lately, mainly because I often get most of my inspiration by seeing live shows which obviously we are not doing anymore.  Last live show was They Might Be Giants, and that was pushing the edge of the social distancing directives.  We had tickets for Tame Impala, Mountain Goats, and Roger Waters; all shows that have been postponed.  As is Summerfest, and every other festival in the City Of Festivals.

But looking at my newly added playlists, I realized we have had an extremely impressive series of new music releases (does it mean anything to say ‘albums’ anymore?  Don’t care, it’s how I relate.)  Some of them are from social media alerts from the artists, some are from some music blog posts; but as usual, there is no mainstream venue for any of this music to reach anybody.  So, in that vein, here is an EXTREMELY non-mainstream venue…

First, up, is a new album from longtime retro-punks, X, Alphabetland.  It’s available on Bandcamp, and I actually haven’t listened to this one yet.  But it features the original lineup, including Billy Zoom.  I saw them last summer with Zoom on guitar and while he had to sit on a stool, he still smiled his way through and Exene had to maintain her pallor by performing an afternoon show with a parasol.  Billy Zoom still HAS IT. WOULD SEE AGAIN.

From the new frontier lines of music, is a punk alternate group called Daddy Issues, an all female group that has the MOST disrespectful version of Boys of Summer since Mojo Nixon did “Don henley Must Die”.

It hasn’t come out yet, not fully, but Jason Isbell’s new album “Reunions” is on the cusp, and has a few songs out for pre-release.  As ever, they are amazing songs, amazing musicians, and he is offering it cheap because he knows we don’t have a lot to spare these days.

We saw him and the 400 Unit last summer, and they were pretty awesome, even though his wife and violin player, Amanda Shires was not there.  Having seen him once with Drive By Truckers, I am there for him.

Speaking of which, the Drive By Truckers also have an amazing new album out, and they have discovered a new populist and leftist bent that is in full flower.  Songs like “Thoughts and Prayers”, “Babies in Cages”, “Grievance Merchants”, and “Thoughts and Prayers” have apparently upset the southern racists who loved when they talked about George Wallace.

What an amazing thing that were such a great band when Isbell was there, and after he left, THEY BOTH BECAME BETTER.  I feel gifted to have seen them in all iterations.  And really, when I saw them the first time at Summerfest, I just stopped by because I had heard one good things, but MAN the show was so good.

Here’s a more personal add.  A local singer, Tawny Newsome, who has played with an extremely extensive list of amazing people including Jon Langford ad Four Lost Souls.    I just found out that she has been cast in a Netflix comedy series, “Space Force” with Steve Carell on Netflix, out next month and the only problem I have is there is probably no place for her to sing.  Also, singing with her is Bethany Thomas who we have seen locally in Hairspray and Hedwig and her voice is able to stun.  I totally fanboyed her when I saw the Four Lost Souls.

 

Another favorite, Brian Fallon, has a new album out – Local Honey.  The amazingly inspiring of his early efforts with Gaslight Anthem; “I’d a called you Woody, joe” and “The  59 Sound” he knows he had to move out of the shadow of his inspiration and on his solo albums he is doing that.  I saw him with the Gaslight Anthem band, and it made me cry it did, but I have also seen him play solo and I understand what he is striving for.  His solo work is quieter and less anthemic, but is more introspective and personal reflective; he’s getting older, as we all do and and sometimes there are other things.

And amazingly the Boomtown Rats.  This is ridiculous.  When I was leaving my terrible high school life, my younger brother had a magazine that talked about how the Rats created frenzies at their show, and I said, that sounds kind of cool so I got a copy of Tonic for the Troops, and then went to college. At that point, Fine Art Of Surfacing came out, and in the cowtown land-grant college, that was just enough to label me as Punk.  Which I welcomed.  I Have loved this band for a long time.

But amazingly after 36 years, these idiots managed a new album.  Which is….not too bad, actually.  they mess around with some different styles and influence, sometimes successfully and some not, but it’s been decades, I can’t blame them.  If I had to make any comparison, it is most similar to their first album.  But…it’s still pretty damn good.  The Rats were always willing to present their experiments along with their more regular songs.

A local buddy, Deano Schlabowske, has been very active. One of the founders of the Waco Brothers, he has been doing a carousel as Rambin Deano, a punk rebel folk artist. We saw him do this at a recent Jon Langford show; but he has been doing much contact-less release of his music, and as a working class enthusiast he allows downloads, but just asks for donations.

https://deanschlabowskemusic.com/home

Since lockdown, he and his partner, Jo of the Meat Purveyors, have been doing online shows  he has released his third album of rebel folk music, with many of his friends, called Bad Luck Days, and his prior was Pills, Puppies, and Bacon. All lovely, and available at his website for the cost of what you might feel like donating.

Lucinda Williams has a new album, Good Souls Better Angels, which sounds as good as ever but I haven’t had time for a focused listen.

And finally, the release that gives this post a title.  Fiona Apple has a stellar new release, Fetch The Bolt Cutters.  I haven’t listened to Apple much, but based on a couple of reviews, I put this one on the drive, and… Well.  Every time one of the songs comes up on rando, I have to stop and check the artist and title.  The songs are arresting and demand attention.  Rapidly becoming one of my favorite albums of This Plague Year.   In addition to having one of my favorite titles ever.

 

Bad times are when we need art and music most of all, and judging by this batch, our musicians are stepping up in a big way.

In the documentary “The Future Is Unwritten”, an (extremely young) Joe Strummer tried to get himself renamed Woody in homage to Guthrie, which thankfully nobody really took him up on, which was good, because the name Joe Strummer is now part of the pantheon of legendary songwriters like Guthrie is.

But Gaslight Anthem once wrote a great response/ tribute song (this is going to make sense, trust me):

So tonight, I went to see a show from a wide range of musicians, but anchored by the Mekons stalwarts Jon Langford and Sally Timms. And the whole show was augmented by the great musician John Szymanski, who also plays with Langford on Four Lost Souls (who recorded their ABSOLUTELY AMAZING album Four Lost Souls at Muscle Shoals).  Also joining in for a few songs from that Four Lost Souls album was Bethany Thomas, who ripped the roof off the place.  Discovered that later this year, we would be seeing her appear on a different Milwaukee stage performing Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Here’s one of the Four Lost Souls songs they played:

I talked about this with my concert buddy, but how it amazes me that all of these masses of music all come together.  Many of my friends express surprise at how much music I love and want to experience.  But music is not a style, it is not a preference.  Music is how we express ourselves.  Like paintings. or sculpture..

But here’s the thing.  In that Gaslight Anthem song, where he sings about “I heard it like a shot from my skull to my brain
I felt my fingertips tingle and it started to rain
When the walls of my bedroom were tremblin’ around me
This ramshackle voice over attack of a blues beat”

And in a similar way, the first time I saw the Mekons did the same thing to me.

And in the early 90’s I took the strong review in the Rolling Stone for a Mekons album, “Rock ‘n’ Roll” inspired me to go see them, probably paid what, 15 bucks? at a local 300 person music club.  And they fucking killed me.  They were SO FUCKING GOOD.  They were sloppy drunks who also were amazingly on point.  They got drunk on stage and took their clothes off.  And they destroyed my brain.  AND they were immortalized by Too Much Joy in one of their songs. And the next time they visited, I told my wife she had to see them.  So we went, but unknown to us they got tossed from their label, without releasing their followup album, and in the middle of their American tour.  So when we saw them, I think they were basically abandoned in the middle of America, and I figure they had pregamed beyond the best amount, and we saw a shambolic, incoherent loss of control by a band that became repellent and they argued more than they played.  We left, and if you know me, that is rare.  So….the next time they came through, on an independent label, I said to myself I says “self, they were so good that first time, I will give them another chance” but I didn’t bring my wife because of how bad they had been the time before.  AND THEY WERE AGAIN SIMPLY AMAZING. I went the next time, and they were even better.  They got better and better every time, and now they are the most consistently amazing band I know.  I went to see them in the middle of fuck-all Wisconsin and I survived a heart attack to get there.

I used to make tapes and  put London Calling on one side, with Rock ‘n’ Roll on the other.

This was a performance from musicians I love and revere.  And they played some of my favorite songs, including “Memphis,Egypt” and “Drunk by Noon”

Opening the night was Milwaukeean and raging protest folk-rocker Deano Schlabowski, who also joins Jon Langford in the country punk outfit The Waco Brothers.  Deano was funny as hell, and he also debuted a theme song inspired by the newly revealed camouflage uniforms of the SPACE FORCE! But he opened with this:

At the end of the show, we spent much time chatting with the musicians, and sharing some absolutely incredible home made brandy sour gummies.  And I am pretty sure I arranged for Deano to play at a party this summer.  And Langford came over to say HI! before I could walk up to him; remembering my name and the last time we talked.  Got pics with him and with Deano.  Spent a LOT of time talking/flirting with Bethany Thomas.

On the merch table, in addition to the typical vinyl and CDs (all of which I already had), Jon Langford had brought along some of his art-prints, on 7″ square plywood.  They were of various artists – Patti Smith, Woody Guthrie, some more bizarre scenes.   He works with nearly-photorealistic portraits, but overlaid onto fatigued and distressed backgrounds. As the T-shirt says, “my favorite color is patina”.  But the one that caught my eye in particular was a portrait of Joe Strummer.  It was gorgeous.

I got another beer and mulled an unanticipated art purchase, discussing with my buddy the likelihood of using my acquaintance with the artist to obtain a discount.  I have a fair number of Langford/Mekons art prints and concert posters already, but only 4 of the plywood treatment, which I bought at an art gallery in town when they had a show that coincided with a Mekons concert. But when I looked again, apparently someone else jumped before I got my nerve up. So it goes.  I was philosophical.  I had just enjoyed a sublime evening of music and humor and friendship and alcoholic gummy candy; what more could I want?

My friend, who was entirely unfamiliar with almost every song played, was still very much impressed – especially with the singing of Bethany Thomas.

So when my friend dropped me at home, and he thanked me for our first show of 2020, I discovered who had purchased the Strummer portrait.  It was a thank you/holiday gift for me.

Of course I’m going to show it to you, and isn’t that gorgeous:

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number 11 of 25.

 

 

Recycler

Posted: September 5, 2019 in Body Count, Fridge Note, Music nobody listens to

Nearly forty years ago, I was on the home stretch of high school and thinking about college (not sure I was going yet, but thinking about it.  Mainly because my father insisted, and Dad, I Thank You).  And there was a song on the radio, a sound I had never really heard before and lyrics about sunglasses.  So when the band in question played the Madison Coliseum (hereafter called the Great Clamshell because: Original-Coliseum-1030x660

I decided I would roll the dice and go solo to check it out, as Joe Bob Briggs will eventually say.

Since I was flying solo, I didn’t bother drinking anything and after the opening bands I was sitting on the main floor, when two absolutely shitfaced girls came stumbling by, tripping over me, kind-of-apologizing then one of them barfed on the floor next to me.  I found it kind of inconceivable they paid to get in then got completely blotto before the main act even started.

ZZTop changed most of my thoughts on what a live show would be.  They had almost nothing on stage, other than a drum kit, two mike stands, and ranks upon ranks of Marshall 4×4 cabinets.  And then only three guys come out, with ridiculous beards.  But when they started playing, all ridiculousness stopped, and complete no-nonsense rock and roll commenced, with a Texas twang.  I knew hardly any of the songs, but I loved it all.  It was loud, and the synchronized shuffle and on-stage communication was entrancing.

I was not aware of the backstory, that after their run of their first albums, they all decided at the same time to go incommunicado, independently.  Nobody knew if they were coming back, not even them; but eventually they did, and started making a dent on radio with Deguello, containing songs like “I Thank You”, “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide”, and, of course, “Cheap Sunglasses”.  But here they were, and they rocked me hard.

Since then, I’ve had the chance to see the “Texas House Band” (as Molly Ivins referred to them) several times, never disappointed.

So.  Tonight.  My concert buddy had asked if I wanted to go to the 50th anniversary (!) show, with Cheap Trick opening, and I figured, well, I’ve seen both of them multiple times, so felt no huge compulsion.

But things being what they are, and things going as they will, Concert Buddy’s date fell through, so I said I would go, nothing to lose.  Except I have been in the middle of trying to catch up on work after vacation, and I have a building walk-through for an RFP tomorrow morning.  The show was at the BMO Pavilion, easily the prettiest open air venue in the State. summerfest_bmo_2019_wp-620x400

So, after 40 years or so, I found myself in a similar situation. Watching ZZTop kicking ass, staying sober while the people around me were getting well lubricated (although way older than before) and more-or-less behaving myself.  They, and Cheap Trick were good as ever, and produced a pretty effective greatest hits overview of my high school and parts of my college years.

Although when I got home I poured a couple of bourbons and sent out about $15,000 in invoices.

Not one of you asked for this, which is why I am putting this out.  LOL.  You guys are all masochists, I am sure.

So, we went to Spain.  This was, as you might expect, very cool.  But I have a history, you know, or maybe you don’t and here you go, whether you want or not.

In college, I was in a studio that had restricted admission, that was involved with the area that was the Olympic Village, and we had one of the architects from the master planning firm drop in for visits.  But I was admitted based on my prior studio work.   I spent much time researching the city and its architecture, and of course I fell in love with the city and with Antonio Gaudi.  Because of course, I have affinity for insane people.

We flew into Madrid.  Lovely city.  and then we went all over the country, and spent much time on a bus, but…. Granada, Toledo, Valencia, Seville, Cordoba.  Every one special in their own way.  But here; I needed to go to Barcelona, because that was where that old project was centered.  And I finally got there, like 25 years after. And we saw Cathedrals, FFS, cathedral after cathedral.  I am so tired of Cathedrals, I know all of this from my Architectural History classes, and I am so tired of thinking that the Church has done nothing  but steal from their people for thousands of years….

And here;  this is the kind of modern intervention I love in the midst of historic cities.  Because, yes, cities are built over time and reflect the new stuff every time, and this is alarming until the next generation, who just say this is part of the city.  But this:

 

Is lovely and exciting example of modern intervention in the midst of an historic city., and this is the kind of thing I love.  The only complaint I have on this is that throughout Spain, all the paving is wonderfully textured and complex and tough to walk on, and this was depressingly plain.  I think there was a lost opportunity here, to make the plaza below a well woven part of the city…

Barcelona is a real, for fucking real city.  Hundreds of taxis, and most people use motorcycles and scooters at best.  Also, they have actual transit.  And after much great times across Spain, we ended up in Barcelona.  Where I wanted to be.  Where I wanted to SEE.  Being in this city was lovely in every way.  But here is where I have to get all architect about this.  SO bail if you would like.

Antonio Gaudi was a lunatic who connected with a patron.  He was aggressive and shitty, and his fame largely came after he died.  Which happened because he was driven over by a tram driver.  Gaudi loved to stop traffic so he could look at his work and he would walk into the street to stop traffic so he could look at his work, and come on, but tram drivers must have hated him. So one ran him over.  And because he dressed like a tramp, he was ignored until someone took him to the hospital for the indigent, where, after a couple of days, someone recognized him just in time for him to die.  Which is the health care the Republicans think we should have available.

So I loved what I found about the city.  The rules about the expansion.  And after being here, the way those expansion  regulations have been incorporated into daily life.  The 8 sided blocks.  The sidewalk cafe culture.  We had sangria and nachos while staring at Sagrada Familia and feeding the pigeons: IMG_2875

Here is where I am going to tell you to go ahead and skim the rest, because I will be getting into the weeds and lots of feels….

Because I have been feeling, since my Adventures in Modern Medicine, that I seem to have lost the ability to feel strongly, for art or music or snuggly animals.  And as great as it was, coming soon after my heart attack, the Mekons show in Mineral Point, I have to count.  I have seen so many great musicians and enjoyed them, but they haven’t made my brain triggers go nutty nut nutters.

And based on that college history, I needed to see Gaudi buildings.  And we did.  But first, we walked around the Cathedral, and as I went around, I was feeling disappointed.  And as the guide talked about how there were a series of dudes who directed the construction based on their own ideas – because Gaudi designed by models and fudging and yelling at people on site.  And the 4 or 5 or 6 people running the show since, nobody really knows what he meant.  But you can see it.  Well, I can see it, you may or may not….

IMG_2804

I was tremendously amused by the fact that they already have to start cleaning the stone of the first efforts, while the remainder is still under construction.  I love that the existing stone  will not only be different from the new stone being used, but that cleaning the older stone will never make them look the same.

But here is what I saw, almost immediately upon walking up.  It is completely obvious that the newer parts of the cathedral are being done by someone else.  You can see that the bronze model of the whole mess is completely different from what is being built.  And I felt, that from the outside, that the lack of a supervising loud person has resulted in something that does not cohere.  My wife agrees, and FFS that is rare….

So here is the thing.  First, I walked up and saw the building and I hated that obviously the subsequent  architects could not resist to put their own stamp on it.  And as I walked around, I started to question the designs of Gaudi.  I found a lot of it to be silly and frumpery.  I became a bit harsh.  I became a bit tough.  I was no longer enthralled, this was not the masterwork it was extolled as, it was kind of a mess.

So the next day, we went to Parc Guell.  Which was completely amazing and a lovely work, in so many ways.  designed with two or three levels, it is a tour-de-force of design for landscape and the integration with the built environment.  It was a chance for Gaudi to party as a designer, and make all kinds of crazy that was still functional and would be a part of the life of the kinds of rich people who paid him for work.

It was all kinds of lovely, and a great ability to recover from my initial response to the Sagrada Familia…

Because then we went back down to the cathedral for an interior tour.  And that was a 4:30 afternoon, on a bright day, which is important.  We were there a bit early so we found a cerveseria, and got some sangrias and nachos, and looked at this:

IMG_2875

So, then we went to our scheduled entry of the church, and the first thing I noticed is that the bronze model of the church is much more complete and coherent than the current state of the exterior building, as I have been saying up above.  Architects love to fuck with shit; Gaudi took the basic floor plan of this church from a gothic architect, and turned it into this massive eruption of personal design.  The eastern apse is representative of the birth of Christ, and the western apse is representative of the Passion;  the southern portion is the eventual entry, which is scheduled for completion on or about 2026 (I am skeptical) which hilariously, requires the demolition of buildings that were built across the street in full knowledge that they would be time-limited, but they kind of thought it would take forever….

And then we went into the church.

It must be understood that Gaudi went beyond any Gothic design or engineering, by using Catenary arches to provide freestanding columns and arches that do not need subsequent support, and then there were more opportunities for colored glass and lighting from above.  He used innovative techniques to design the arches, which all work together to be a complete structure that works together.  And then he had glass artists that provided blues and greens on the birth side, and oranges and reds on the passion side.

I wandered the apse, and I had the audio thing but I paid little attention.  I was looking and seeing and absorbing.  I took some weird vertical panoramas which came out kind of nice:

The spaces within this building were astonishing, and I walked into people because I couldn’t stop looking up.  But the time we were there, we had the opportunity to see the afternoon sun casting through the red and orange windows and making the whole place sing with color.  And I felt joy.

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When we left the church through the passion entrance, which is much more severe and modern in sculpture, but they have a GOOD DOG:

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And a couple of nights after getting back, we saw the Musical Box, a tribute band for early Genesis; which they did not play the song Visions of Angels, if they had I would have likely burst into tears thinking back to the feelings I had in this building.

And so here.  All the feels I ever have.  This church and the previous Calatrava buildings, they brought it back, near as I can tell.  A buddy and I saw the Genesis tribute band the other night, and it swept me up.  FFS, I was walking over a bridge toward my office, listening to the new Mekons album and it brought tears to my eyes. Something- SOMETHING – has been repaired, somewhere.  Was it Gaudi?  Was it Spain?  Was it something else?  Dunno.  Should I care?  It feels good to feel something that has been missing….

 

Well, this has laid here barely twitching for about long enough, don’t you think?

Do not, however, think I am suddenly going to go all foul mouthed and rant-fueled.  I am somewhere else right now, and it probably has to do with my SECOND near miss involving my traitorous heart.

But I am currently on my third watch-through of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and enjoying it as much as the first time, if not more.

It is a period piece from the 50s, about a woman who spent her entire life working toward the expectations of the time:  college for an MRS degree, jobs from the parents, kids, and apartments in the best parts of Manhattan.  BUT; her husband, having a stupid hobby of doing comedy in basement clubs, leaves her because she is funnier than he is (he relies on stealing from Bob Newhart records).

The night he leaves, she gets drunk and takes the train (for the first time) downtown to the grungy basement club and stumbles onto stage, where she free associates her frustrations and anger about being left, and then exposed her tits. Resulting in arrest, and which she managed to get bailed out at the same time as Lenny Bruce.

She doesn’t remember the thing about the boobs, but the scene where she completely misunderstands the legal process of courts is fucking adorable.

And during a terribly awry family get-together, she drinks up and then goes to the club, and the bartender says “here we go” for another great free-association rant.  And she is AMAZING at quashing anyone who tries to interrupt her or heckle/.

From there, it gets better, trust me. it is awash in period details,  and it is admittedly kind of a fantasy in the way it shows women at a time they were hardly allowed any agency outside of shopping for groceries.

So it’s kind of a fantasy.  But it has the rapid fire attitude of old school farces like Bringing Up Baby, but with an attitude and language that is contemporary.

And it visits the ideas of free speech and women’s rights in a way that is clever and humorous. AND it includes a cameo from Jane Jacobs, which very nearly dropped me to the floor laughing, because I realized I was one of the few that recognized her….

In any case, it is so well done, and so fucking funny and so fucking intense, I watched it once by myself, once with my wife, and once more by myself after I listened to the star, Rachel Brosnahan, on Marc Maron’s podcast.

Went to see some bands tonight, Something to Do and The english Beat.  S2D had a new single to play, dedicated it quit appropriately to the ladies;

We’ve been huge fans of these guys for years, and they are criminally un-appreciated.  But opening for the Beat must have been a thrill.

With regards to the show, I am gonna resurrect a post from the old blooger bloggo from the time I saw them – at a very lowish time  for me.

Searching For A Former Clarity
Mirror in the bathroom
Recompense
For all my crimes
of self defense.
Cures you whisper
make no sense
trajectory into
mental illness.

Sometimes you can recognize meaningful change through small details.
My office is downtown, located shouting distance from several entertainment venues including the huge Bradley Center and more intimate places like the PAC and Turner Hall. So it’s not unusual to see touring buses and trucks driving around or parking.
Sunday was a work day, as was Saturday. By midafternoon, while taking a short break to just gaze out the window, I watched a pair of generic touring buses pull into designated spaces alongside the street. In ones and twos, the occupants stepped off, stretching and looking around, and then each one of them did the same thing: pulled out their cell phone to take advantage of the signal and call – friends, family, some kind of home base. Modern technology has helped to soften the disorientation of touring, letting the crew and artists maintain connections and some level of sanity.
In this case, it was
The English Beat and their techs, here to play Turner and we were going to see them later that night. I turned back to the desk; I had to finish what I had in front of me in order to make the show on time.
buy a beach before next summer?
how do you feel in the morning?
if the light’s an awful bother
i could always close the curtains.
just close your eyes and count to ten
see if you still remember when
your life seemed easy, you had friends
but that was different than that was then
you’re drowning, you’re drowning

In 1980 I made my first presidential vote against a candidate, and then watched dumbfounded as America elected a suit that went on to stumble and lie his way through 8 years of deceit and corporate malfeasance. Against this backdrop, punk music was going through a mainstreaming into New Wave, wrapping the energy into a more commercial package; but the music industry had nearly dozed into irrelevance, and the DIY aesthetic released a restless generation of kids, seemingly thousands of new bands exploding into clubs and bars every month.
The English Beat rode this wave, but had a bit different agenda. Wrapping a positivist and multi racial message in propulsive danceable songs built on Jamaican ska and accelerated into a new decade, they were lumped in with the ‘Two-Tone” movement. Their first album was a relentless ska dance party, and many of my friends played it incessantly; but my real introduction was Special Beat Service, their third album, a much more pop-oriented album that Also served as their swan song. They disintegrated into
Fine Young Cannibals and General Public.
No it’s not a joke it’s cards on the table time
Yes I could have phoned
I could have spoke
But how to break the news without beaking your heart
Being dead don’t hurt,
No only dieing
Cards on the table time,
Sometimes it’s right to say goodnight.

But the band wore their hearts on their sleeve, and the combination of Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling on vocals, as well as the multiracial makeup of the band and their fans demonstrated that tolerance and unity not only worked, but you could dance to it.
The warmongering of the Right was decried in their actions and lyrics, one of the few New Wave bands that maintained the political outspokenness of the punk bands, without apology.
you tell me how can it work in this all white law
want a short sharp lesson,
want a third world war
i sometimes wonder if i’ll ever get the chance
just to sit with my children in a holiday jam
our lives seem petty in your gold grey hands
would you give a second thought
would you ever give a damn, i doubt it
stand down Margaret

we played that 3rd album nearly nonstop. During the early days of MTV, “Save It For Later” was a (short-lived) staple and we danced to the TV like kids in earlier days had danced to American Bandstand. Inevitably on Mondays, as we cleaned up the debris from the weekend, shelving one or two Beat albums was part of the process.
They never made it to Milwaukee, although Wisconsin appeared in their lyrics. Local bands covered Beat songs, and we made do.
And, as inevitably happens, we all got older….and lives shifted, as they will.
buy a beach before next summer?
how do you feel in the morning?
if the light’s an awful bother
i could always close the curtains.
just close your eyes and count to ten
see if you still remember when
your life seemed easy, you had friends
but that was different than that was then
you’re drowning, you’re drowning

I guess a few people noticed that I’ve been kind of AWOL of late, closing the old bloggo and generally making myself scarce. [Incidentally, I’d like to extend thanks to the folks who chased me down anyways. It’s weird, and a bit moving, to have someone you’ve never met express concern.]
One morning I looked at the New Post button, and realized I just didn’t have the energy, inclination, or temperament to throw anything out there; moreover, I dreaded the commenting if I just left a post without anything for some time. Commenting anywhere, in fact, seemed like more than a chore; with the prevailing mood, the likelihood of saying something appalling seemed like a near-certainty. In the end, I had no tolerance or patience, and the Internet is not kind to those without tolerance or patience.

So I pulled the plug and tried to concentrate on MeatSpace.

Strength is not the same as anger
Put the taste back into hunger
Searching the box?,
looking for what?
Pushing the gear back into top?
Put the first back into class
Lose your bottle break the glass
You’ll wind up high and dry with just this slow cold comfort.
For several weeks now, the Real World has been coming down like rain; like shit from an incontinent Moose (doncha love my Way with Words?). Professional life has rubbed me raw; old clients have refused to pay, new clients have refused to agree to reasonable fees and existing clients have been demanding full time attention far in excess of contractual and reasonable standards.
Rotating head, keeps on the right side
Colied up and tense remains on the lookout
Expects to be shot or get given the bullet.
Rotating head tries to look on the bright side of things.
For a normal business owner, or even at normal times, a bit of extra work doesn’t come as a surprise and can even be energizing. But the demands in construction season are critical and time intensive; construction schedules hinge upon the work and millions of dollars hang in the balance. Simple mistakes cost tens of thousands of dollars and Owners demand that culpability be assessed and compensated; one particular recent project is costing me a minimum of five figures, and that’s just my liability deductible. Larger firms carry errors and Omissions insurance in hundreds of million-dollar amounts, and one of the bigger firms in town may have $1,000,000 in claims in a given year.
Against this backdrop, we try to run a business, make a living, and maybe – just once in a while- achieve …. well, maybe not Art, but aesthetic satisfaction? Too much to ask?


Sugar ‘n’ stress,
Do everything at least twice
Catch your fingers in your private vices
Sugar ‘n’ stress
With a heart like ice
Hope heaven comes in a number of sizes.
In the middle of this, a Construction Inspector decides that I’m incompetent, and immediately sets out to disrupt my projects to the greatest extent possible to prove that I’ve screwed something up. Clients have no way of discerning whether his allegations have any validity, and meanwhile construction schedules are disrupted by Mr. Bureaucracy; everyone’s looking at me to resolve this and get things back on schedule, without affecting the budget, while my new friend smirks.
When two swords slashing at each other
Only sharpen one another
And in the long run even he’s your brudda’
Even though that kid’s a nazi

Of course, the internal flow of my office is further disrupted by the demands on my time. As we try to complete projects on time and keep the cash flow alive, I have little or no time to direct my younger associates or check their work. Inferior or inaccurate work is released into the real world, with predictable results; further confusion and errors in construction, needing more and more effort on my part ot keep things righted. It’s all supremely frustrating, and of course it bleeds over into the personal life; I had no time for family, friends, or exercising.
And perhaps inevitably, it seemed like I was losing my ability to cope.
one in thirty five is saying sorry through a bottle
say it’s your job to scrape a living up, that’s all it does
well think it back over it, hurts twice as much as living
itchy finger, finger, trigger, trigger
faster faster faster faster

I couldn’t even bring myself to care much about politics, during one of the most intriguing elections I’ve ever seen, and one of the most crucial. Not to mention one of the few that it seemed the Democrats couldn’t screw up.
Just like in the 80’s, we have been living through a greedy, self-centered Administration that is hostile to anybody without a lobbyist or a trust fund. The only foreign policy we seem to have is one of submission to American Empire, and the tragedy of September 11th distressingly gave the political powers the strength and support to force many of their priorities into reality. Wealthy Americans and corporations reaped profits and tax breaks unseen since the advent of the twentieth century, while the economy was starved and wages stagnated.


These thought are so unfair
“If somethings there then it’s worth taking.”
We know where our hearts are-right behind our wallets,
Yes and that’s where they’re staying
Grow up together but we grow apart
Always climbing up is our downfall.
A change of blood or a change of heart?
Another change of address will do no good.
Neo-conservative idealogues destabilized the Middle East through fear-mongering and deceit. Ronald Reagan was deified, and the new Presidnet lied to an extent that was inconceivable twenty years previously. Dissent was demonized as treason, as were liberals. Political dialogue narrowed and veered sharply rightward; torture became codified and sanctioned as offical American policy, while widespread surveillance of Americans got authorized at the highest levels in admitted violation of American laws in place since Watergate.
Hatred and bigotry are enshrined permanently into Republican policy, more explicit than anytime during my life.  The Southern Strategy writ large and driving nearly everything they do.  Fear of others – different races, gays, Muslims-  is the wedge they use to divide America into segments that they can dominate, while religious intolerance becomes the norm.  Civil rights are becoming eroded, while autocratic powermongers dice and degrade the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
our correspondent made to wait in the lobby
torn to pieces by three have a go bobbies
young swimmers in these sun dialling times
sweeping the nation with a dance called the breadline
it’s in our water, and our education
we are oppressed into association
cheated cheated
it’s a joke, but it’s not that funny
cheated cheated
change the truth until it’s worth
money
All of it has seemed like it didn’t even matter to me anymore. The abandonment of my practice appeared a reasonable response, even as the construction industry lurched into one of the worst years in decades and subseqent employment seemed like a long shot, attractive as it would be to just cash a paycheck again.
there’s a training camp when
you come from from saving nations
get a new job and a new leg
social rehabilitation
every time you thing of leaving
you get caught between the lines
it’s the training for the funfair
you get taken for a ride
you!
just get-a-job, get-a-job

Finally though, we made it to Turner Hall that Sunday night. Several friends were due to show up to, and I confess that I was pretty eager to see some friendly faces.

Naturally, most of them didn’t show.
Sooner or later your legs give way, you hit the ground
Save it for later, don’t run away and let me down.
Sooner or later you’ll hit the deck you’ll get found out
Save it for later don’t runaway and let me down, you let me down.

The Beat opened with a measured version of Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret, one of the classics from their debut. Dave Wakeling is the Sole Surviving member of the band and it was quickly apparent that the new (still multi-racial, of course) band was smoother and more skilled than the Beat was during their active years, adding a layer of American soul to the ska underpinnings. I sipped my beer, and looked forward to hearing some new twists on some old songs.
Until, that is, they played their second song.
So cross your fingers say you’re on high
Pretend you’re in den and see what life brings.
But always taking things as they come
Tends to make you forget to put anything in.
The longer you dwell the more it’s like hell
You sit by the well just making a wish.
To make it plain I’ll say it again
We’re all the same
It’s only a game.
With no interval between songs, they launched into “I Confess” the opening song from that album we loved so much. No new twists on this one, the piano charged directly into a straight-up version.
And much to my surprise, I discovered myself tearing up. Okay, hell, not tearing up; call it weeping.
the little you can expect to get
to get from anyone else
makes you look after number one
the only helping hand
you’ll ever be offered
is the one at the end of your own arm
draw in like a breath
it goes tight like a wire
you’re trying to shout
but your lungs are on fire
The memories of the feelings from all those years ago kept running through my mind. Every next song brought back the feelings of youth; idealism, energy. I remembered those years of dawning political awareness and maturing emotional outlook; I recalled the vibrancy of everyday life when another new day was a gift and nothing stopped us from reaching out to each other.
What then?
Do it right, do it now!
Here there, everywhere
Shouting out “I’m mad as hell”
He pushes his legs against the bed
And feels the triumph flooding through his head
He could conquer,
He could win,
Now that dying only means you’re not in next week’s programme
Stop being a baby
I would have expected a much noisier show to be responsible for….well, readjusting some internal relief valves, I guess. By the end of the night, we were dancing to the English Beat again, and the band was as good as anyone could have asked. Going to sleep that night, tired and sweaty and a mild ringing in the ears as “Save It For Later” played me to sleep on the iPod, I felt…. like I had some measure of control, again.
The next morning promised to be just as difficult as any preceding. But it seemed at least manageable, somehow.

And…. the past still keeps bumping into my consciousness. The potential of young years, and thinking there may have been something I missed.
I know I’m being overly dramatic here, and it can probably be dismissed as the onset of mid-life crisis; but when it’s quiet, I wonder if, all those years ago, I made the best decision when I sold my guitar to make my tuition payment.
Someone just smiled for no special reason,
It looks liken the smile’s come back into season
It’s so easy.
It doesn’t have to be a nice day,
Just the only one you’ve got
And it’s coming ready or not!

It’s very affecting to read those words from nearly a decade ago.  Although I can be grateful that things have changed since then, this post makes it so, so easy to re-live those feelings, that desperation.  And in some ways, the hands have just gone around again:  like the 80s, we watched a debacle of an election install a goon, a child, supported by idiots, fascists and staffed with greed heads and warmongers; while the meager economic improvements managed by That Black Man are being rolled back and a new massive recession is engineered; we watch actual Nazis marching in our country and being supported by political actors; while the rightwing insists that pedophiles and criminals should be elevated to high office, and immigrants of good will and good hearts are criminalized and sent back to war zones.

And against the horror and tragedy of that backdrop, these bands blew the shit out of Turner Hall, again Commanding us To Dance, and that the new dance, the Tolerance, can be our Soul Salvation.  And regardless of the foregoing, we see a continuing expansion of acceptance of gender and orientation diversity, a remarkable surge in women Not Taking This Shit From Anyone, anymore, and running for office.  Against this, the retrograde right wing and fascist whites are kicking, but like a chicken fresh from the chopping block, they are merely not recognizing that their time is done.  Yes, they are able to spray blood around before they lie quietly, and we have to be on our guard for fuckery at any level.  But they know; they know.  Even after managing to use every last ounce of influence to take over the government, they can’t get anything done, and they realize, it deep down.  It’s why they keep buying guns, shooting up schools, listening to Alex Jones and shooting themselves in rockets to prove that the Earth  is flat.

Yes, BBBB, I am bleeding music yet again.  Still.  Yet.  I am still not dead, and I’v been as close as dammit.  But this is the music I like, and it still speaks to me, even if it qualifies for oldies status.  And so:

And it did, too.  The Fainting Room (which included a Whiskeybelle) started a little past 8 PM.

Continuing the Milwaukee Music Summer, tonight was an album release party for the Wooldridge Brothers at local java joint Anodyne Coffee Roasters.

I have been a fan of these fellas since they moved their entire band from Indiana to Milwaukee to be part of the thriving music scene here in 1984, and they were called the Squares.  Of course, that scene fell apart, as did their band (although members of that band are still making music here) and Scott moved to Minneapolis.  But the brothers continued to work together, landing songs on TV shows and films, releasing fine albums.

A couple of years ago, they launched a Kickstarter project (since there’s no music industry anymore) to release two albums; a solo Scott Wooldridge album, and a Wooldridge Brothers band album.  I , of course, supported their efforts, and my support resulted in a producer credit in the liner notes, which is kind of exciting.

Scott’s solo album came out a while ago, and it is fine, in the same vein as their previous records, and it yielded this excellent song:

But they decided to take the band album in a bit different direction.  They took their time and pushed the production levels up, as well as bringing Brian Wooldridge’s guitar solos well forward in the mix, providing an energy and attack that had not been there before.  In addition, their influences -Elvis Costello, Squeeze, the Kinks- are laid more bare than usual.  The result is, frankly, quite startling.

One of the things they did when they realized their schedule was slipping, was create a video for one of the songs, a bittersweet song called “Drive Through Summer” which they recorded in a drive-in theater.  After they filmed it, they realized that the drive-through would provide, if not a concept album, a tone and feeling throughout the album; so they named it Starts At Dusk.  What an evocative name….

We chatted with the Brothers briefly before the show, talking about the new album, other Milwaukee musicians, the show in Minneapolis, and summer family vacation plans.  I had received the album a week prior, as I was a Kickstarter Producer (along with a couple of rare discs of covers and demos) and it was already making quite a mark on me.  Particular standouts are “Waiting It Out” (excellent guitar work by Brian) and “Zero Information” ( think Graham Parker).  It is not to be released online until September; until then it is SOLELY available at Milwaukee Anodyne coffee shops, because there are no record stores anymore.

The show was simply amazing, we were sitting right up front.

20525873_10209845438672940_467305875466613922_n

That is actually the Wooldridge Brothers and a Sister-in-Law.  They played almost all the new album too, and we loved it.  It was maybe too short; a tight 90 minutes or so.

Other than the record release, they are mostly relieved to have a project finished and will be focusing on other things for a while, so this may be a rare appearance -although if you live in Minneapolis, Scott plays out relatively often.  In an interview, they said that they hope to be more active in 2018, but until then, there is this absolutely outstanding new album to enjoy.

Up next:  Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, Bouncing Souls and a guy from Stiff Little Fingers.  IN this place:

IMG_0404

This may not be a huge urban enclave, but MAN we have a great music scene.  Yes, yes Big Bastard, if you cut me, do I not bleed music?